Apple Retail Stores in dire need of competent leadership

“I love my Apples but I hate going to Apple stores,” Mark Sunshine writes for Forbes. “The store near me is overcrowded, noisy and delivers crummy customer service. The problem with Apple is that it sells a lot of iPhones, iPads and computers but didn’t build enough retail infrastructure for acceptable customer and warranty service.”

“In Boca Raton, Fla., where I live, the Apple store is located in the mall. When I first moved to Florida, it was one of the first retail stores I visited. No, it wasn’t because I was going to purchase anything. It was just that back in the good old days of 2005, I thought it was kind of fun to go to the Apple store. It wasn’t overcrowded and there were cool new gadgets to play with. The Apple store was the place to be,” Sunshine writes. “Today, things are different. What was an excellent store seven years ago is woefully inadequate today. In 2005 the store had a positive buzz, now it has negative karma. It is just too small and too crowded. The store is just a noisy and stuffy unpleasant space.”

Sunshine writes, “Between October 2011 and October 2012, Apple posted aggregate sales of $156 billion. That represents more than 10 times the amount of sales compared to 2005. However, Apple only has three times the number of stores it operated in 2005. Ten times the amount of sales being serviced by three times the number of stores. Should anyone be surprised that this formula does not work? …Customer loyalty is hard to come by but easy to squander. It took 5 years before I gave the iPhone a try and only two days of problems before I started thinking about buying another brand.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple Retail Stores need to delight customers or the golden goose is – ahem – Cooked. Apple’s next retail chief has a very, very important job. The retail stores are the public face of Apple. Spend lavishly, Apple. Don’t be cheapskate Browettizers.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “JayinDC” for the heads up.]

60 Comments

  1. To be honest I have not been to the iPhone store since it stopped being about Macs. There isn’t a damn thing there that cannot be ordered online- usually for less.

    Factor in that Apple has run off most of the great employees that made the rep of the stores. My closest store is one of the oldest- Saddle Creek- and it’s a waste of time.

    1. You’re absolutely correct, Agent. That store used to be a pleasure to visit, now it’s an absolute nightmare. When it first opened, I went just to peruse the wares and chat with the friendly sales people, now I never go unless I have a problem that can be solved NO OTHER way. You have to virtually kick someone in the shin to get service of any sort! Sad.

  2. Yes, Apple needs more and larger stores. However, Apple needs to move appropriately and not do another Gateway.

    Apple could continue to build more stores, but additionally even more strongly support the independent stores that focus primarily (or in some cases solely) on Apple products.

    That way Apple stores could be the flagships and for quick/simple sales or simple service work you could go to the local Mom&Pop Apple focused store.

    1. Gateway stores didn’t last in my area because not many people weren’t interested in getting them. That is not an issue with Apple stores.

      And what independent stores focus only on Apple products besides official Apple Stores?

      1. Here is East Central Florida we have an Apple Specialist named
        Visual Dynamics that has a couple of shops, which largely look like Apple shops and sell Apple gear, accessories, training, and service.

        The problem is they SUCK, terrible customer service, pompous owner, overpriced and generally phonies. The employee turnover is high because the owner is a jerk and he pays the employees very poor wages. He constantly has help wanted ads up as a result. I won’t spend a dime there.

        Worth the extra 30 minutes to drive into one of the Orlando area stores. Crowded with competent employees is better than empty stores with bozos for employees.

        I just wish Apple would hire some older employees, too many young know-it-alls who don’t really know much about service, the products, or life outside of their hipster circle.

  3. I told an Apple Regional Manager several years ago that as long as Apple products are selling like hotcakes they can get away without addressing many obvious horrible problems (that we discussed), but that someday a reckoning would come.

      1. 1. I have to go to a damn mall to visit one. Ever lug a broken MacPro through a crowded mall to get warranty service?

        2. They are full of hipster/youngster employees, who lack knowledge and experience.

        There are TWO, JUST TWO…

  4. Heres what happened to me at the Apple store……

    My iMac went crazy….reboot fixed it…… but the problem reoccurs after rebooting sometimes an hour after and sometimes a day after….making it hard to nail down what the could be.

    Apple could not nail it down either.

    They changed out the logic board and display cards. Cost to apple $1400, cost to me $0.

    A day after, it exhibited the same problem.

    Apple ordered me a NEW one (Approx cost $3000, but free to me because of warranty).

    A week later my almost out of warranty iPhone 4s would not shut down. Kept powering back up by itself after shutting down. Apple exchanged it for a NEW one.

    What more can you ask for?!!

    1. Agreed Paul.
      One guy’s opinion does not a trend make.
      If you or I worked at Forbes we’d be treated to a story of delight and wonder. I have always had good experiences, without exception.
      As has been pointed out Apple is so far ahead of the game in retail it’s ridiculous. Staying ahead is the key, but until I see solid evidence that they’re failing (survey data or sales numbers, not some ‘journalist’ whining that his phone broke and they didn’t serve him cookies and ice-cream) I see no reason to assume this is not already happening.

    2. +1000

      I haven’t needed such extensive repair as yours, but I have been helped many times for issues (both from damage or other weird things) with my iPads and iPhones. Great service.

  5. “It took 5 years before I gave the iPhone a try and only two days of problems before I started thinking about buying another brand.”

    It took me two seconds after reading this to realize I wasted two minutes.

    1. You did waste your time. This guy sounds like some idiotic prince from the “Gilded Ghetto” of Boca Raton. He could drive 30 minutes and come up here to the Palm Beach Gardens Store. Now this store needs to clean house. It’s filled with gum chewing, overweight arrogant twenty something’s that know zero about anything Apple. I simply call Apple direct and complain and the experience is so much pleasant and professional. I believe one of the problems here is that it is very difficult to find dedicated employees. Apple is addressing this all the time here and ironically Mr. Sunshine should know that many of us do travel down to the Boca Raton Store which is very nice and offers a most pleasant all around experience.

      1. It is difficult to find dedicated professional employees if you pay them as such.

        When you under hire and schedule your work force to wring as much out of them without letting them work a 40 hour week, so you can avoid giving them benefits, it shows in the customer experience.

        Happy, healthy, well paid employees will deliver a better customer experience, will help retain them and is money well spent…

    1. I live midway between two Apple Stores — Valley Fair and Palo Alto. No problems at either location. In fact, when I took in my MacBook for service (optical drive went bad) and had lost my AppleCare information, they actually dug through their files and found it (fortunately I took it to the same store where I’d bought it) so I got the replacement at no charge. They even replaced the keyboard because they noticed it showed sign of wear.

      I’ll go to the local Mac repair shop for out of warranty repairs (I took my new iMac in to add in RAM and saved about $150 — they even wiped the hard drive of my old iMac and recycled it), but for in-warranty service or general questions, I’ll hit the Genius Bar at the Apple Store any day.

      Products owned: iPhone 4, 2011 iMac, 2007 MacBook, several assorted iPods

    2. Me neither at Walnut Street and King of Prussia here in Philly. You walk in and they are packed to the gills but within 10 seconds an employee is asking you what you need.

  6. One key point missing from the article is that while there are only 3 times as many stores as there were in 2005, the size of the stores are significantly bigger on average than back then.

    Furthermore, the stores have gone through many redesigns and focus on different products.

    Think about one of the first Apple stores, the one on University Ave in Palo Alto. That store used to have *aisles* of books and software along with cameras, printers, scanners, etc…

    They opened the store up and focused on Apple products a long time ago, but they also just moved across the street to a much bigger location. Furthermore, this will be the *small* Apple store in Palo Alto. The big Apple store will be ginormous and a huge attraction just a short walk away at the Stanford Shopping Center.

    Combine this with self-service check out, giving the sales people iOS point of sale systems, iPad kiosks for product information and ordering, and I’d say the stores continue to be far ahead of everyone else.

    1. Well, the Stanford Shopping Center is a bit more than a “short walk away”, but your point is well taken; haven’t stopped at the new University Avenue store but it looks awesome. It’ll be a good spot for folks to stop in and browse, while the Stanford Shopping Center location will be more of a “destination” shop.

  7. …“Between October 2011 and October 2012, Apple posted aggregate sales of $156 billion. That represents more than 10 times the amount of sales compared to 2005. However, Apple only has three times the number of stores it operated in 2005.”

    … This is a dubious analysis. For one; Apple’s total sales figures do not represent sales through their stores only. Much of Apples sales are on line and through other channels. Secondly; The rate of sales at Apples retail stores when they first opened was well below their optimum capacity – so a ten-fold increase in sales might or might not bring them over that capacity. Lets say it It might have taken a five-fold increase from year one in store sales to saturate a given store … lets say that opening a nearby second store would then diminish sales at the first store to only half its capacity. You then have headroom to increase sales another 100% before reaching capacity of those two stores. Say that takes another year. In this scenario you could have a six-times sales increase over six years and only need to double your store space to handle it.

    Even if many stores are overcrowded, it’s not likely to be by a factor of ten.

    The author of the article is being alarmist and anecdotal. Just because a few stores are overcrowded doesn’t mean there is a systemic issue.

  8. I think the author misses the point completely. I used to patronize the Apple store in Roosevelt Field Mall when it first opened on Long Island , New York. It was reasonable to shop there when it first opened but but soon after the iPhone and iPod touch got introduced the place rapidly got mobbed. Shopping there became difficult and within 2 years Apple responded by moving to an area in the mall with double the square footage. Guess what happened, that space is now mobbed but the management there has handheld it. Even with more crowds I find it easier to shop there than at any time I’ve been in that store. They have learned how to move people in and out of the store quickly. What I miss is the ability to walk in casually and resolve a hardware problem, but once I learned to use the concierge system it was fine. Like when I dropped my New iPad and it hit a curb on the corner in such a way that it dented the aluminum enclosure which permanently depressed the power button. It dropped in such a way that it could not be protected by the snap on acrylic case in the back. One hour later I had a new replacement device, the reason it took an hour was I restored my device from the cloud whole in the score.

    The author seems to not take into account the formula Apple has used to place new stores. It’s a laborious and meticulous process that has served Apple well. As for the customer service experience, once you adapt it works quite well. Apple stores handle more foot traffic efficiently than they did 10 years ago, and maybe the customer service, yes it requires some adaptation on the customers part but its well worth it provided you buy Apple care. Other external factors beyond Apple’s control also, like local restriction in historical districts limiting Apple’s design. It took a while for Apple to incorporate into Grand Central Station because it had to be done with care. Rapid willy nilly expansion does Apple not service, and if their fortunes change they could go the way of Gateway, Circuit City, Radio Shack , and soon Best Buy.

    1. “They have learned how to move people in and out of the store quickly”

      I would change that to – learned how to move people out once they decide they want to purchase and leave. Apple is still a no-pressure-browse store.

  9. I had not been in an Apple Store recently…since the redesigns. I admit to not being impressed. They are much colder. A bunch of tables with things on them. Not much browsing available for accessories and support stuff. I know we’re supposed to get all our software from the Mac Store, but I still miss browsing software. Admittedly, that may not be practical and they never had much even when they did. Still, it would be nice to browse something. Genius Bar operation means I had to wait over an hour after my “appointment” to be seen by someone who tried, but couldn’t fix the problem(s). Everyone (non-geniuses) there has seemed like they wanted to help though – when my turn came up. They definitely need help quickly.

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